Introducing a new series featuring stories of everyday people living active lifestyles.
The Lethbridge Sport Council is proud to be launching: Your Quality Life (YQL). In YQL we hope that, with the help of the community, we can highlight positive sporting and active lifestyle experiences throughout the greater Lethbridge area. With YQL Stories, we will draw attention beyond just the competitive aspects of sport, but also the important role it plays in personal development, relationship building, and living an overall quality life.
For our fourth edition of Your Quality Life we were lucky enough to have a chance to talk with Lori Harasem. Lori works at the City of Lethbridge in the Recreation and Culture Department and is part of a very active family with a husband that is an ultra-distance runner, and three active children.
Lori grew up in Kelowna, BC where she was heavily involved in swimming growing up. Swimming in backyard pools nearly every day in the summers and in an indoor pool in the winters. In middle school, synchronized swimming got started in Kelowna and Lori tried out and made the team. For several years she trained synchronized swimming, but when her team relocated to a new pool, Harasem found herself drawn to the speed swimmers which trained in the laned pool immediately next to the dive tank that her synchronized swim team practiced in. Having never really connected with synchronized swimming Lori told her parents she wanted to be in the next pool over with the speed swimmers. Lori fondly reflects on her time as a swimmer, while never the most talented or fastest in the pool she never felt her results held her back from enjoying the sport. Harasem never felt discouraged or dwarfed by her more successful teammates, instead finding motivation from the success her teammates had. On top of the competitive and active side of swimming, Lori greatly enjoyed the social aspects of the sport as well, and even to this day says the pool is where she feels most at home.
Upon moving to Lethbridge to begin university Lori found herself slowly drifting apart from swimming as her university studies kept her busy. While she would still find time to go for the occasional run that too eventually fell off her priority list when she had her children.
It was not until the age of 40 that Lori would get back into active living, and when she did it was entirely by accident. A friend of Lori’s was hoping to get entry into a half-marathon in San Francisco which used a lottery to select the race’s participants. Lori agreed to enter the draw as a member of her friend’s “team” in order to give her friend a better chance of getting to run. On her 40th birthday, Harasem received an email congratulating her on being selected to run the race. Lori, who recalls she would’ve fallen under most people’s definition of a “couch potato” at the time, initially tried to get out of running the half-marathon. Upon discovering her entry was non-transferable and payment non-refundable, Harasem found herself with a three-month period to prepare to run a half marathon. When the day of the race finally came Harasem successfully completed the half-marathon and the feeling of empowerment she had as she crossed the finish ignited a new passion inside of her. In only three months she had finished a half-marathon, a feat which seemed utterly impossible to her on the day she learned that her name was selected.
Ever since running the San Francisco half marathon, Lori has taken up setting a new goal or challenge for herself every year. These challenges have included: returning to the water to do the swimming portion of a relay triathlon with her husband and son, Femsport a strong-woman competition that involved lifting, throwing, jumping with, and flipping very heavy weights, Harasem also set one of her annual goals to complete a full triathlon purely because her son told her she’d never be able to finish one. Each year since the age of 40 Lori has set out with a goal to push her limits and achieve something new.
On top of her annual self-challenged, Lori’s return to active living opened a door for her to have a truly unique once-in-a-lifetime experience. Once again Harasem found herself the winner of a draw as she was selected to attend Right to Play. She went to Liberia in West Africa alongside Clara Hughes and Rosie Maclennan, two legendary Canadian Olympians. With Right to Play, Lori and the team she was with worked to teach young children valuable life skills using games and play as the vehicle to deliver the message. Harasem believes that by adding fun into the learning experience through the use of games, Right to Play was able to effectively deliver its programs, and believes that if she had the opportunity to dedicate herself to the program earlier in life she could see herself making a movement like Right to Play one of her highest priorities.
Today at the age of 50, Lori has her sights set on completing a half Ironman Triathlon. Her training for the Ironman, like most sports, has not been unencumbered by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of the shutdowns and restrictions that the entire country had to deal with Lori had the pandemic hit inside of her own home as all of her family members caught COVID-19 with her being the lone exception. While she may have managed to avoid the virus itself Lori found herself quarantining alongside her family members for a full month which greatly impacted her ability to train. In spite of all of the challenges she has faced in the past year from COVID-19 she has her sights firmly set on completing her half-Ironman in 2022.
Ever since winning the draw to compete in the San Francisco half-marathon at the age of 40, Harasem has spent the past decade proving that the value from sport doesn’t have to come from outperforming others; it can come from outperforming yourself. Lori has never aimed to finish first but always has gone out seeking new challenges that scare her. Not once in the past ten years has she been at the start line of any of her challenges and been completely certain she would be able to achieve what she set out to do. The ability to discover potential she never knew she had and to feel the sense of accomplishment and empowerment at the end of each successful challenge makes all of her efforts and fears worthwhile.
For those looking to get themselves started in active living, or even to just try something new Lori recommends trying out Parkrun or participating in the Prescription to Get Active program. From her experiences, the best way to find motivation or inspiration to get started is to have a group of friends around you that will encourage you and that can offer to get you involved in new experiences. Lori hopes that in the coming months and years sport in Lethbridge and worldwide can become more open, welcoming, and inclusive and become a space where everyone can feel welcome and feel free of barriers to get involved.